An early taxi from Si Ming to take me to the outrageously large and empty Xiamen North station. As it was so bare it looked as though at least four football pitches could fit in the waiting room.
In the hour and a half I was there only one train passed through.The CRH trains which are Chinas high speed trains are
mainly an east coast network and huge new stations have been built outside main cities, and in Xiamen it is so new that the approach road and car park are hardly finished.
It is symptomatic of china’s vision of the future that Xiamen has about 8 platforms where only 2 are used. Quite frankly I can never envisage eight platforms being used but it is typical of china’s construction boom.
On the journey up to Shanghai I saw for the first time Christian churches. Christianity doesn’t appear to be present in the inland cities and is a coastal phenomena. Obvious I suppose as China’s contact with outside world was through the trading ports.
We pass many areas where there are new six lanes of road, new blocks of flats unfinished and just one car on the road.
Shanghai’s Hongqiao Railway Station (right next to Hongqiao airport) is the largest station in Asia. And after a days travelling I have to join another horrendous queue for a taxi into central Shanghai.
The hotel was in the central French concession area Jing An. It is not that easy to get English language maps of Chinese cities, and after a days travelling, with towering highrises all around I didn’t dare go further than the nearest restaurant for fear of getting lost forever.
The following day with a borrowed map in Chinese I set out to find the only shop in China that still sold black & white film.
The French concession area is also the home to luxury brand stores.
Not only did I have Gucci, Vuiton and Prada to contend with, there was an enormous billboard of Leonardo di Caprio wearing a Tag watch to have to look at every morning.
I didn’t enter the Super Brand Mall or any of the others as I wouldnt wear anything with a polo player on it if it was £200 or even £1, … actually I wouldn’t be seen dead in it.
There are hundreds of small inexpensive boutiques with almost one-off fashion clothes, so with twenty four million people the only ones who wear the same uniform are the rich. I do not understand why wealthy Chinese want to ape their fellow rich in the west when for the most part the women who wear variations on the chinese silk dress, or modern Chinese fashion look immensely better.
Shanghai has all that the west has to offer and nearby there were.. a Kentucky Fried Chicken, Costa Coffee and a Subway all together.
Outside the Costa Coffee there was a tramp collecting all the unfinished coffee and pouring it into his flask, and then drinking it. China’s first caffeine addict.
After drinking green tea or a few weeks it was a pleasure to have a double expresso at MacDonalds , cheaper than Costa and Starbucks and the ‘barrista’ was so much nicer than the surly staff I later encountered at Costa Coffee. Outside I was hassled by a shoe-shine man who used so little polish that twenty yards up the road another shoe-shine guy looked at my shoes and I was hassled again.
I am really a country boy and I find being hemmed in by so many tall buildings quite oppressive. I had bought with me and just finished reading ‘News from Nowhere’ and William Morris’s vision of a post revolutionary city was not a bit like this.
Shanghai was the site of the first National Congress of the Communist Party of China was held in the middle of the French Concession. Now, partially rebuilt it is in the midst of coffee shops and outside restaurants for the rich expats which rather takes away the feeling that something important happened here. You could be in Chelsea except for the twenty thousand skyscrapers.
This is the first of four blogs of Shanghai
All Photographs are copyright of michaeljennings